Bristol NUJ to target new media

| November 24, 2009 | 11 Comments

By Paul Breeden

BRISTOL NUJ can be at the forefront of the union’s drive to recruit the thousands of creative workers in the new media industry who have so far gone unrepresented.

Research conducted for the NUJ shows that Bristol is one of the nation’s hotspots for the digital sector.
The study was presented to a packed fringe meeting at the union’s ADM on November 21.
“We think the NUJ is the union for the new age,” Bristol branch chair Christina Zaba told the meeting.
“We are ready to recruit and to show people that this the new age is not just about individualism, it’s about a new collective empowered by new forms of communication.”
The new research – conducted for the union by Vivienne Sandt – shows there are 20,000 workers in digital new media in the Bristol area.

“There are thousands of people out there who are ripe to be recruited to the NUJ,”  said Lawrence Shaw, the union’s assistant organiser for the North and Midlands.

Those present broadly agreed that anyone producing creative content online who isn’t merely a blogger should be able to join the NUJ.

“Online video reporters are doing fundamentally the same job as people at the BBC and ITV. And I don’t see that people who design websites are different from sub-editors,” said Lawrence Shaw.

“It’s down to all of us to go out and find them.”

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  1. It’s great to see the Branch taking this on board so quickly, I’ll be in touch as soon as we finalise the report. New media recruitment will be one of the main projects I’ll work on as Vice President, so you might well see me in Bristol at some stage next year!

  2. Great plan.

    A coalition of rich daddy’s boys who hang around the Watershed with laptops and a bunch embittered ex-Western Daily Press hacks.

    The bosses must be quaking in their boots.

  3. Christina Zaba says:

    Well you’re one of them Bristol Blogger! using your blog to reach the readers….going to join us then?

  4. admin says:

    No disrespect meant to bloggers – just that they’re no substitute for well-resourced journalism.
    By the way, my name’s not spelled like that, Bristol Blogger. Why so shy you won’t tell us yours?
    Paul Breeden

  5. Not the best choice of words, bloggers are entitled to join the union if they make more than 50% of their income from journalism. Blogs are just platforms – the content depends on who’s doing it. There are well-resourced journalistic blogs.

  6. Christina Zaba says:

    Yes, and then there are the aggregating blogs which are influential media organisations as well – eg springs to mind.

    I wonder if we should get together with the blogging community in Bristol and have a discussion about this at some point next year? Bristol having been the city where the Web was co-developed in the first place back in circa 1990 (little-known factoid).

    Donnacha warmly invited – we could ask the branch to host and it could be exciting. Fur and feathers might fly but that’s no bad thing and something good could come out of it.

    I expect there are some people from the Univ of West of England – students as well as teachers – who might also be interested.

    Any thoughts?

    nb animated discussion proceeding at Bristol Blogger!

  7. Anton Vowl says:

    I can’t help thinking the NUJ should be welcoming the subs from bloggers who want to pay and join the union. I don’t think it dilutes the profession of journalism nor the credibility of the union. The NUJ accepts membership from students, so why not others who aren’t full-time (or even part-time) professionals?

    I agree bloggers aren’t a straight swap for well-resourced journalism but this isn’t an either-or choice that we’re making. Bloggers can add to the debate with articles that are intelligent, researched and insightful – often more so than what you’ll see turning up in the mainstream media. Is that journalism? Yes it is. Does it matter that you don’t get paid for it? I don’t think so.

    There must come a time when you look at the thousands of readers blogs are getting and decide that it can’t be dismissed or viewed as less worthy, simply because these people aren’t being paid a salary by giant corporations. Indeed, I would argue that’s a very good reason for taking them more seriously.

  8. We recently agreed to allow non-journalistic members of Indymedia collectives to join the union as associate members, so bloggers who earn money in other ways can also join in the same way. Just fill out the form and write associate member across the top (maybe include a cover note explaining).

    Full membership is more difficult due to the 50% rule (to become a full member you need to earn more than 50% of your income from journalism). Those bloggers who qualify are, of course, welcome to join. We need to have a look at this rule, though, so those who don’t meet the requirement are encouraged to join our New Media mailing list – and voice their opinion and help us figure out how best to resolve the issue.

    @Christina – sounds like a great idea and I’d be happy to come along.

  9. Iqbal Tamimi says:

    What about those who can’t earn money from journalism, blogging or otherwise yet, they are excellent writers and brilliant contributors to their societies? Are they punished by denying them representation?

    Is it their fault that they can’t find jobs or they do not know someone who can help them put their foot in the door?

    Has journalism been reduced to whether a journalist can make money or not?

    Aren’t those writers in need of a trade unions to discuss, protect and support their demands?

    Good journalists are supposed to know how to write, regardless of the media outlet they are offering their work through, be it press or online journalism, but not all journalists know how to earn money online.

    Bloggers are not media establishments that have departments taking care of the financial side of the business, profits and how to generate revenues. The present policies of NUJ regarding membership is expecting bloggers and online journalists to become experts on business,to be an IT geeks, salespersons and a lot more besides being journalists.

  10. Christina Zaba says:

    It’s not the NUJ who require this. It’s the way work is now. Many, many working journalists have to also be business people, in charge of exactly the things you mention, Iqbal: IT, sales, and a lot more.

    Huge numbers of journalists have lost any job they might have had with “media establishments that have departments taking care of the financial side”. A lot of journalists run small businesses or companies, because these days, they have no choice. Some of them are very successful and earn good money – others find it harder.

    The NUJ offers help with starting up in business – there are modestly priced training courses and days, and a whole Freelance section within the union which gives help and support. Look on under “Freelance” and you’ll see some of it. There is a Freelance Industrial Council and the SW representative on it is freelance photographer and branch secretary Simon Chapman. He is there to help all freelance members in the SW get the assistance and support they’re due.

    Hope to see you at the event tomorrow for further discussions.

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